They definitely do not need a lengthy introduction by now. Cult Of Luna have been carving an unparalleled path between all subgenre hysteria and are currently in a place of their own, gathering what we could fearlessly call a legendary status. Think about their records. “Salvation” – how many of you decided to pick up the guitar and do something alike? Yeah, lots. Think “Somewhere Along The Highway” and you’ll probably consider “Dark City, Dead Man” to be the epitome of something which remains absolutely nameless. That record is now celebrating its 10th anniversary and CoL will play it fully, alpha to omega, on a limited series of upcoming shows – including Roadburn.
The Swedish are also ready to release this month, via Pelagic, “Råångest“, a split with their old friends in The Old Wind. Prepared to hear some brand new music from CoL? Not going to happen, but they have arranged something rather exclusive nonetheless – “Last Will And Testament”, an Amebix cover. You read that right. Makes you long for the Unbroken cover, doesn’t it? We’ve talked with Johannes Persson, a couple of days before Christmas, about all of this and much more.
I was about to start by asking you if this idea of playing “Somewhere Along The Highway” in its entirety would be a one-shot thing for Roadburn. But I’ve just checked Facebook a couple of minutes ago and you’re also doing it at least in Copenhagen.
Yes, we have four days scheduled for Scandinavia as well: Gothenburg, Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen. And some others.
So, will the setlist be solely based on that record?
Ah, no, in all those we’re going to play some more songs, too. I’m not one-hundred percent sure, but we’ll probably close the shows with “Somewhere Along The Highway” and, considering that it’s a one-hour length album, we’re going to add a few more.
Why are you specifically picking “Somewhere Along The Highway” instead of going with “Salvation”, which is a fan-favourite as well? Is there a reason?
No. [laughs] Sometimes things just happen. Ideas come and, with them, certain points of view… I mean, look, there’s always someone who enjoys more a record than the other. That’s the funny thing about doing something like this: you can’t please everyone at the very same time. Every individual has their own favorite record and they’ll go «why didn’t you do this?». Well, now we’re doing this. [laughs] It’s hard to answer questions about why things don’t happen, it’s easier to talk about why things do happen.
Why is it happening then? Did the idea of celebrating the record’s 10th anniversary come from Roadburn? They are quite good at pulling the strings to make stuff like this materialize.
Actually it was our agent that came up with the idea to play the whole album. As a musician, I don’t really like that kind of stuff, but, as a fan, I do. And, for once, I took the fan’s perspective and thought «oh, maybe we should actually do this». For me, this is the most important album we’ve done – for many different reasons. It will be a nice experience to revisit that whole era; that time when we wrote it and recorded it.
Is it the most important or the best? There’s a slight difference between the two.
Yes!, it’s a big difference. It’s hard to give the right answer. Our first album – I don’t know how many years ago was that, maybe sixteen years – was good at that time, but nothing quite comparable to what we would do today. I’m still proud of it, as I am with every single record, but “Somewhere Along The Highway” holds a certain significance. It was not only a special time… [pause] I think that was the first album where we actually stood on firm ground and had found our own way of doing things. I also think that “Salvation” had a big, big impact and it was with it that we certainly found our own voice. But, for some reason, I really love what we did with “Somewhere Along The Highway”. And I think it’s actually playable live. We can do justice to those songs, much more than we could do with “Salvation”.
I was precisely going to ask you about the “playable” factor, because I’m not sure if you already have done all its songs live. Have you?
Hum… [pause] You know what? [pause] Wait, we have played every song of it. But the only time we’ve played the song “Thirtyfour” was actually in Portugal.
Yeah, in Porto, at Casa da Música. I don’t know why I remember this show of ten years ago. [laughs] That was even before the album got recorded. We just flew in to play that show, it was the very first time we played in Portugal. That’s why I remember it, yes. It was in the Fall of 2005 and it was the only time we did “Thirtyfour” live.
Some people I know were at that gig. The same ones who keep talking about your 2007 show in Coimbra at the old São Francisco convent.
Oh, yeah, that was amazing! We played that huge church. The acoustic was not the best, but the atmosphere… We then recently heard that they found these old mass graves on the church grounds from four hundred years ago, something like that! So it has now become an archeological place. [laughs] But it was a good venue for as long as they could keep it.
Is there any specific, uncommon obstacle that you might find when translating the whole album to the live setting? Instrumental-wise.
Ah, no, I don’t think so. That album can be played without much trouble. We just need to practice the songs. [laughs] “Dark City, Dead Man”, for example, it’s a song that has been on our setlists for ten years now.
Any chance of seeing Klas [Rydberg; former member] making a special appearance on any of those scheduled gigs?
Well, we played with him a year ago. We did the Beyond The Redshift festival together. To do a couple of more shows with him… It wouldn’t be special if we do it more than once, right? He is not in the band anymore, it’s a different band now. And the thing with “Somewhere Along The Highway” is that I did half the vocals anyway, on half the songs.
Talking about the past a bit: you’ve played in Eclipse, a hardcore punk band that was genre-related to Refused and that whole Swedish scene. You’re into punk. But, as you’ve mentioned in “Råångest” press release, you only found about Amebix quite late. How come?
I didn’t find out about them late. I got into them very late. Amebix has always been a band that it’s on the backpatch of every crust punk, since I can remember. Which kinda made me resent getting into them. I thought they were something completely different of what they actually were, because the people that enjoyed them enjoyed music that I don’t like. The whole crust punk scene is very uninteresting. But Amebix are actually one of the fathers of what we’re doing now. To find that was… You get annoyed at yourself for having not to listen to them before. [laughs] It’s a very big error. You cannot even forgive yourself. [laughs] And, yeah, we then had some studio time and I thought «we might as well do something and reinterpret that whole song».
Being Neurosis such a huge influence on Cult Of Luna, isn’t now weird to listen to records like “Pain Of Mind” or “Souls At Zero”? To find that what Neurosis were doing back then was tremendously shaped from Amebix? That whole punk-meets-atmosphere thing.
Yeah, definitely. But if you see where Amebix come from… They had punk, post-punk. They were a mix of all things from that era. You can hear Motörhead, you can hear Joy Division…
Yes. That illustrates that you cannot see music as a line, a straight line, that comes from somewhere and goes somewhere. It’s more like a tree branch that creates new branches, leaves, which get all together again after some time. It’s a mishmash of different branches and that’s the reason why I love music. After all, it’s only a big single band, basically.
And what did the other members think about covering Amebix? Are they into them as well?
No, the guys in the band are into completely different things. I think that’s one of our strengths. Some of us are into this kind of music, some of us don’t even listen to it. That’s good, it shows that we’re influenced by completely different stuff. You cannot really pinpoint where we come from. But they all accepted the challenge of covering Amebix. I think the outcome is quite unique.
Can you find some ground between Amebix’s apocalyptic premonitions and the dystopian aura where Cult Of Luna recently left us with “Vertikal”?
We didn’t quite think about it in those terms. I guess that, from an outside perspective, it is much easier to see the similarities, but when you’re in the middle of it, it’s a much less complicated process. You pretty much like what you like. [laughs]
I get it, but I was thinking if, at some moment, you read the lyrics of Amebix and noticed something…
Yeah, of course! When I get into a band, I read their lyrics, I enjoy the atmosphere that they create along with the artwork, the sonic landscape. But I don’t think about them in those terms, comparing them to what we do. They’re interesting. Great poetry, actually.
“Monolith” is a record for the winter.
Definitely! [laughs] Harsh, bleak winters.
And how did the idea of releasing a split with The Old Wind come up to you?
When we started Cult Of Luna, there was pretty much only another band which did remotely the same thing that we did. It was a band called Breach. We did a couple of shows together. They were kinda father figures to us. We were kids back then, they were adults. [laughs] They were way better than us and are still way better than we’ve ever been. So, in the last couple of years, I started talking to Tomas [Liljedahl] when he founded The Old Wind. And it’s nice, after all these years, to get together again and do something. We did a couple of shows together as well, somewhere in 2013 or 2014, and it’s like finding home… again.
And the split format… You only did it with Switchblade sixteen years ago. It’s a very punk format.
Yes, exactly, I was about to mention that. We came from that background. At that point, it was normal, everybody did splits. Nowadays you don’t see it that often.
About that punk background, you’ve mentioned already that you didn’t enjoy the whole crust scene. I’m wondering why.
I didn’t like the people! I didn’t like the attitude they had, I didn’t like the bands. The bands that were playing in Umeå, which were influenced by the crust scene, were horrible! I think that they pretty much hijacked the whole scene that we’ve worked so hard to create.
It’s good to have your look on it, considering that the Swedish crust scene gets tons of respect everywhere.
Well, right now I don’t have any idea of what’s going on in it anymore. [laughs] What kind of bands people mention over there?
Disfear, Wolfbrigade, Skitsystem…
Yeah! I see. [laughs]
[laughs] Ah, let’s talk about the future. The Amebix cover was done while you were in the studio recording something new.
We have recorded something. And whatever that thing is, it will be official in a couple of months, maybe. It is not a Cult Of Luna album, but it’s something.
Any shows besides the ones already announced?
We will play as little as possible. And maybe save our energies to when we have something properly released, whenever that’s going to happen, to be honest. We aren’t a band that play that much and it doesn’t make any sense to play the same venues with the same songs. We are not a band that is into this to make money and make a career out of it. We have jobs, kids, music is not as much as a priority as it was some years ago. So, we need something new to play, something that give us the energy to go out. At least, in Europe, we are not thinking about to play any more shows than the ones announced.